Hope rose yesterday for Nigerian first time visitors to the United Kingdom, who may be affected by the planned introduction of £3,000 (about N700,000, (visa bond as British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg vowed to block the implementation of the policy.
The British Government plans a new visa policy that will see some “high risk” first time visitors deposit £3,000 in bond before being given visas. The deposit will be refunded on departure from the UK within the stipulated period but forfeited if the applicant overstays the visa.
The pilot project is planned to start in November in six countries, including Nigeria where there has been outrage from the government and the people.
Some lawmakers have even urged the Federal Government to consider a retaliatory approach should the UK go ahead with the bond policy.
The other countries targeted for the pilot scheme are Ghana, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Clegg said yesterday he would try to block any attempt to make foreign visitors routinely pay a security deposit to come to the U.K.
Officials and business people in other affected countries have condemned the proposal, and the British government has not said how many visa applicants will have to pay the bond.
Clegg said his Liberal Democrat party and its Conservative coalition partners had “differences of emphasis” on the plan, and details were still being discussed in government.
“I am absolutely not interested in a bond which becomes an indiscriminate way of clobbering people who want to come to this country,” Clegg told the BBC. He said the bonds “are certainly not going to go ahead” on that basis.
“Of course in a coalition I can stop things,” he added.
Immigration is a sensitive political issue in Britain, especially with the unemployment and austerity measures brought on by the economic crisis. Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to cut net immigration from 252,000 a year in 2010 to below 100,000 a year by 2015.
While that plays well with the Conservatives’ right-of-centre supporters, it has been trouble for the centrist liberal Liberal Democrats, who are holding their annual conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
The party is sagging in opinion polls, 18 months ahead of a national election, and many members have expressed unease about the compromises involved in coalition government. Earlier this month, one of the best-known Lib Dem lawmakers, Sarah Teather, said she was quitting because she felt the party no longer fought for social justice and liberal values.
Clegg defended his party’s participation in the coalition, saying it had made the government fairer and more liberal.